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Your Letters: Underfunded court system has consequences

One of the most important tasks Governor Mark Dayton and the Legislature will have to address in 2011 is how to eliminate Minnesota's projected $6.2 billion budget deficit for the 2012-2013 biennium. That won't be easy. Many Minnesotans oppose tax increases. Many others oppose cutting education and social services, which make up much of the state's expenditures. As our new governor and the Legislature grapple with the solution, it is important to point out that our justice system is already underfunded, overwhelmed and in jeopardy, with our public defense system in crisis and backlogs and delays building in courts across the state.

If you think it doesn't matter if cases take longer, think about the business owner who has to wait a year or two before a court can resolve a contract dispute that might determine whether the business survives. Or the person accused of a crime who has to sit in jail for months before getting a chance to argue their innocence. Or conversely, the person accused of a crime who posts bail and is out of custody for a year or more before being held to account. Think about your neighbor, friend or family member who is going through a divorce and has to wait over a year to resolve a child custody dispute. Think about the woman who has to wait to see a judge to ask for an order for protection; or about the arrest warrant that doesn't get processed for days and maybe weeks because court staff are backed up.

The justice system is a core government function that affects all five million Minnesotans. We all have a stake in making sure that the justice system is adequately funded. The solution to the state's budget crisis should not be to jeopardize justice in Minnesota with crippling budget cuts.

Paul Carlson

Kennedy, Nervig, Carlson and Van Bruggen, LLP